It's no secret that the results of last weeks election sent ripples through the nation, regardless of who you voted for. What differentiates the reaction to this election from others, however, is the immediate and evident backpedaling in civil rights for roughly every minority imaginable. Hate crimes against Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQIA communities, women, and the list goes on. People are no longer afraid to hide their prejudices, and have in fact been encouraged to act on them. This is a terrifying world to wake up to every day.
Although I am Caucasian and privileged enough to live in one of the most progressive areas in the nation, as a woman I still face the results of discrimination, and frequently witness it in others. Every girl knows that every time she boards a metro train, she scans the car for the least likely individual to hit on her or make her feel unsafe. Walking downtown or even in a residential neighborhood after dark often is accompanied with a lot more anxiety and skittishness than reasonable. At times, it truly feels unsafe to be a woman, especially when politicians are recommending that strangers grab you by the [insert feline expletive here].
As a millennial, of course I feel exorbitantly compelled to make a difference, yet have no credibility, creativity, or real power. So what am I supposed to do? Over the last week or so, high school students in Montgomery County and DC have been staging walk outs from their classes and protests in front of Trump Tower. Now I am more than supportive of these acts of making voices heard, particularly the voices of those who will be inheriting the America we create today.
But for some reason I didn't want to hold a sign and shout at large crowds of people, no matter how moved I am by those who do just that. I wanted people to listen to me without me really having to say anything. So yesterday, I stood outside the Washington Monument, shirtless and blindfolded, two sharpies in hand, and a cardboard sign at my feet that read "Trump says women are pigs. Write on me what "woman" means to you." Now this was more of an experiment than a protest. I wanted to make myself as vulnerable as possible so as to not have an effect on what people wrote on me, and to see how they would react to this half naked white girl standing in the cold outside a national landmark.
The results were this:
Woman is life
Shame on you, Trump!
Rock on sister!
(There were also two Chinese symbols from a tour group that stopped by but I have yet to translate them.)
Now I'm not writing about this to get everyone to strip down and stand around monuments waiting for people to write on them, but I did want to point out that although we can only do so much about politics, there are things we can do, and we don't even have to say a word.
Some people are complaining about the ruckus and drama being made by all these protests, although they are intended to be peaceful, though frankly they don't always end up that way. And no, I didn't change the election results or the electoral college or the economy.
But I did remind at least a small percentage of people that no matter what direction the nation goes, we all matter and mean something to each other. We are facing a reality in which people are being demeaned and stripped down to nothing more than a label. This experiment was intended to remind people that there is so much more than a label to every single person, and because of that, nobody can treat people in any lesser way as a result of one aspect of their being. I'm not protesting, but I refuse to be quiet.